Wednesday, 18 July 2018

New plan to redevelop hall site

NEW plans have been drawn up to demolish Watlington’s disused church hall and build two new houses.

NEW plans have been drawn up to demolish Watlington’s disused church hall and build two new houses.

The hall in Pyrton Lane would be knocked down and replaced by a five-bedroom house and a new four-bedroom rectory for St Leonard’s Church.

The house and existing rectory in Hill Road on the other side of the town would then be sold to pay for an extension to the church.

A previous application made by the church was withdrawn in January following objections.

Under the new plans, the layout has been changed and the roof heights lowered. The application to South Oxfordshire District Council says it has been “informed” by discussions with the council’s planning and conservation officers about the withdrawn application, particularly about the site, scale and design as well as concerns about the impact of the development on trees adjoining the site.

It continues: “The district raised further concerns about the impact of a two-storey development on the setting of the church, the effect of the development on key views, the location of the proposed dwellings and a suggestion that the dwellings should be located more centrally within the eastern part of the site, splitting the open space into two.

“Further submissions were madeâ?¦ demonstrating the minimal beneficial impact that moving the dwellings would have and showing the limited effect of the dwellings on the setting of the church and the street scene generally.

“Subsequent amendments reduced the ridge heights further, relocated the rectory garage and made other minor changes.”

The parish council had objected to the impact on trees, the height of the buildings, visual impermeability and non-vernacular design.

The application says: “These issues have all been addressed in the new application, specifically by pulling the buildings away from the trees, lowering the roof heights, relocating the dwellings and improving the design and layout of the dwellings respectively.”

Rev Christopher Evans, the rector of Watlington, said: “This new application has been prepared after taking into account the previous discussions of Watlington Parish Council and their written feedback as well as comments submitted by people living in Watlington and several further conversations with the district council’s planning and conservation officer.

“We feel that we have met all the concerns that have been put forward other than, of course, those who are against any development at all.” The parish council has said it is not against development of the site but it objected to the previous application.

Tim Horton, chairman of Watlington Church Hall Concern, which has also objected, said: “We’re not surprised that there is a new plan but we take the view that this area should not receive a residential development which will inevitably take away from the site’s ecological, visual and amenity value.”

In 2012, planning permission was granted for a £150,000 extension on the north side of the Grade II listed church with a kitchen, disabled toilet and baby changing unit.

The hall, which was built in the Seventies, was closed in September 2013 for public safety reasons.

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